Taxpayer Safeguards

ARIZONA EARNS HIGH MARKS FOR TRANSPARENCY—Over the past few years, Arizona has gone from earning an “F” to earning an “B“ for government spending transparency, yet there is still room for improvement.

ARIZONA AT HEAD OF REPORTING SPENDING

The ability to see how government uses the public purse is fundamental to democracy. Transparency in government spending checks corruption, bolsters public confidence, and promotes fiscal responsibility.

In 2010, Arizona’s Department of Administration created a new transparency website called OpenBooks.az.gov. This website allows residents to monitor most state expenditures at the checkbook level.

The state can still do more to shine light on its expenditures. While the website tracks some subsidies in the form of grants and tax credits — and in some cases shows the number of jobs and investments that companies are expected to deliver — many subsidy programs lack this detail and no information is provided on the amount of tax credits given to individual companies.

Arizona decision makers should require comprehensive information on economic subsidies is added to this website.

TRANSPARENCY 2.0 STANDARDS

Today, you can go online to track packages in the mail, check your cell phone minutes, and compare real estate prices nationwide. Yet government spending continues to be analog. What we're calling Transparency 2.0 is a new standard of comprehensive, online one-stop, one-click budget accountability and accessibility.

The following are the Transparency 2.0 standards for comprehensive, one-stop, one-click budget accountability and accessibility:

Comprehensive: A user-friendly Web portal provides residents the ability to search detailed information about government contracts, spending, subsidies, and tax expenditures for all government entities.

One-Stop: Residents can search all government expenditures on a single website.

One-Click Searchable: Residents can search data with a single query or browse common-sense categories. Residents can sort data on government spending by recipient, amount, legislative district, granting agency, purpose, or keyword. Residents can also download data to conduct detailed off-line analyses.

Issue updates

News Release | Arizona PIRG | Budget

Groups Call for Increased Transparency on Tax Credits

As the Joint Legislative Income Tax Review Committee had its annual review of income tax credits today, several groups called for increased transparency. Arizona PIRG, Children’s Action Alliance, and the Goldwater Institute raised concerns that there is not enough information available to the public about the tax credit programs.

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News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Budget

Transparency Shortcomings of Arizona Commerce Authority Cited in New Report

A new report released by the Arizona PIRG Education Fund, Shining a Light on the Arizona Commerce Authority, examines how transparent the Arizona Commerce Authority has been with the grant and tax credit programs it oversees.

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Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Budget

Shining a Light on the Arizona Commerce Authority

Arizonans deserve to know how their taxpayer dollars are spent – including when their tax dollars are given as subsidies to corporations. However, more than a year after the creation of the Arizona Commerce Authority – the new state entity responsible for distributing the state’s economic development subsidies – the Commerce Authority discloses information online for only a portion of its economic development funds.

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Media Hit | Budget

Yuma Sun: Transparency necessary for good governing

Last week, the Arizona Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) gave our state government an A-minus for providing online access to spending data. PIRG, which bills itself as a consumer protection group, surveyed 47 states regarding their financial openness and said Arizona was a leader in the nation.

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News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Budget

Arizona Ranks Near Top of States for Transparency of Government Spending

Arizona continues to be a leading state in government spending transparency, according to an annual report by the Arizona PIRG Education Fund. For the second year in a row, Arizona received an A– in the report based on its official state transparency website, OpenBooks.

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Media Hit | Budget

Yuma Sun: Transparency necessary for good governing

Last week, the Arizona Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) gave our state government an A-minus for providing online access to spending data. PIRG, which bills itself as a consumer protection group, surveyed 47 states regarding their financial openness and said Arizona was a leader in the nation.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Budget

Arizona Ranks Near Top of States for Transparency of Government Spending

Arizona continues to be a leading state in government spending transparency, according to an annual report by the Arizona PIRG Education Fund. For the second year in a row, Arizona received an A– in the report based on its official state transparency website, OpenBooks.

> Keep Reading
Media Hit | Budget

Arizona Republic: Arizona receives top grade for online transparency about state spending

Arizona is one of seven states to receive a top grade for providing online information about government spending. The U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund graded Arizona an A- for its OpenBooks website, maintained by the state Department of Administration.

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News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Budget

Watchdog Group Gives Some Praise, Suggestions for Transparency in Commerce Authority

One year after Governor Jan Brewer signed legislation officially creating the Arizona Commerce Authority, the Arizona PIRG Education Fund examined the transparency and accountability of the Commerce Authority thus far.

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News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Budget

Arizona Receives Mediocre Grade for Enforcement of Job-Creation Measures in Subsidy Programs

Arizona received a ‘C’ grade in a new report that examined how well states enforced their own requirements for job creation in their major economic development subsidy programs.

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Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Budget

Tax-Increment Financing

Tax-increment financing (TIF) has been a widely used tool for municipalities seeking private investment. TIF allows cities and towns to borrow against an area’s future tax revenues in order to invest in immediate projects or encourage present development. When used properly, TIF can promote enduring growth and stronger communities for blighted neighborhoods; but TIF can also end up wasting taxpayer resources or channeling money to politically favored special interests.

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Report | Arizona PIRG | Budget, Tax

Toward Common Ground for the Supercommittee

The National Taxpayers Union (NTU) and the Arizona Public Interest Research Group (Arizona PIRG) have joined together to propose to the Supercommittee and to Congress as a whole a list of more than 50 recommendations to reform our future spending commitments. If enacted in their entirety, these changes would save taxpayers more than $1 trillion over the coming decade.

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Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Budget

Following the Money 2011

State governments across the country have been moving toward making their checkbooks transparent by creating online transparency portals – government-operated websites that allow visitors to see who receives state money and for what purposes. Forty states provide transparency websites that allow residents to access databases of government expenditures with “checkbook-level” detail. Most of these websites are also searchable, making it easier for residents to follow the money and monitor government spending.

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Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Budget

Following the Money 2010

State governments across the country are changing that. At least 32 states currently mandate that residents be able to access an online database of government expenditures with “checkbook-level” detail. Most of these Web sites are also searchable, making it easier for residents to obtain information about government spending. This report evaluates states’ progress toward “Transparency 2.0” – a new standard of comprehensive, one-stop, one-click budget accountability and accessibility.

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Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Budget

Transparency 2.0

The Arizona PIRG Education Fund reviewed how current Arizona policy compares to best practices among Transparency 2.0 states that have upgraded their budget transparency systems. This report makes the case that Arizona must seize the opportunity to become a leader of the nationwide movement of state governments enhancing budget transparency in order to increase efficiency, accountability, and public trust.

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